Race: Backcountry Rise 50k

Runner: Frank Fisher

Race Date: 09/07/2019

Location: Toutle, WA

Results: Placed 25th, 6:48:57

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2688901443

backcountry rise 50k race report
Photo Credit: Steven Mortinson Film & Photo

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

The scenery around the volcano is awesome! The race is well organized, and the aid station volunteers were fantastic.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Large chunks of the course are really brushy in the 1st half of the race, and lack of port-o-potty’s at the start. Post race could be better, I just wanted a coke and some ice, but not a lot of options.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Aid station 2 on the 50k course is just sitting on the side of the trail in a pretty gnarly situation. I don’t know how they got all that gear out there, but huge props to those volunteers who made the 5am trek out there to be there for the racers.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I finished! I had some doubts there for a while with some stomach issues and cramping, so I spent some extra time at aid 3 to get some fuel and salt down to get my body back on track. Thankfully, it worked out and I was able to run the last 6 miles fairly well. Overall, I thought I paced pretty good throughout, my legs were strong all day and the fitness was there to do well. Gotta love the camaraderie of ultra’s too! Went back and forth with a guy (Sam) from about mile 14 to the finish, I think we did a really good job of keeping one another pushing to the end.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

It’s easy to go out fast in this race as you really don’t start climbing till after aid #1. The website says 8k of vert, and it is every bit of that (though my Strava says otherwise, but we’re gonna ignore that), and you will spend most of the day climbing. The distance between aids 2 and 3 is significant and the course is very exposed from about mile 14 on. I had two full water bottles, but I think it would’ve been smart to have some in the bladder as well because I came very close to running out of fluid, and it starts to get pretty warm during that time. There are no water sources for that 11+ mile stretch at all. Hike early and save something for the last .5 mile climb to the finish, it’s a soul sucker!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

This is the one and only race I did not carry salt tabs, and it’s the one and only race I’ve needed them. The exposed nature of the second half of the course, and the distance between aid stations is tough. I would definitely carry more fluid than you think is necessary and fuel up as much as you can handle at aid 2.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

It’s a lot of vert for a 50k, and there are some fairly technical sections of the course. Still, it is pretty runnable and the downhills are nice. The aid stations are in remote areas, so may not be stocked as well as some other large races. Don’t expect ice or port-o-potty’s out on the course (aid 3 had one). It is way more exposed than most courses in the PNW, so be ready for a long time in the sun.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes and no. The first 6 miles are kind of meh…but once you start to climb it gets prettier. Coming out of aid 2 you pop over the hill and wham, you finally see Mt. St. Helens for the first time on the course. From there till you get close to aid 3 there’s a lot of amazing views. The last 6 miles, not so much.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes, it’s very tough. A combination of a lot of vert, exposed trails, really brushy for long stretches, some big distances between aid stations, and a pretty strong field make it hard. There are a number of technical sections, washouts, fallen trees and areas where you just won’t be able to move too fast. Expect 1.5-2 hours longer than an average mountain 50k for most people.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Yep, Daybreak does a good job.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes, there is a 50k finish pre-rec for this race and it’s becoming fairly popular, so you’ll see a lot of your regional fast folks, and a lot of seasoned experienced trail runners from all over. Many of the people I ran with had done this course before, so they were well prepared.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

No. It does fill up so you have to register ahead of time. Plenty of room for car camping, and hotels within an hour of the start.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Aids 1 and 2 are in tough spots. I ran through aid 1, so I didn’t see what they had, but it was small and typical of what you might normally see. Aid 2 is way out and hard to get to, so not a lot of options at that one, just the basics (water, tailwind, coke, cookies, oranges, etc..). Aid 3 was pretty well stocked. I highly suggest filling up at aid 2 though. All the aid station volunteers were great, and they did a good job of telling everyone to top off and be prepared.

Weather and typical race conditions

Low 60’s at race start. Very humid till the sun burns the clouds off. Maybe up to low 70’s, but weather changes quickly up there so be prepared to go from warm and sunny to cool and damp.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

I would say be mentally prepared, even if you’re experienced this one can be hard. Stay focused, the brush hides a lot so you might find yourself face down in the dirt if you’re not paying attention. Have a good power hiking base, you will need it. I would also suggest having more than 40oz of fluid on you, especially if you know you drink a lot, and be ready for long gap between aids 2 and 3.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Nope. There is access around aid 3, but for the most part, they won’t be able to get out on the course.

How’s the Swag?

You can buy a hat or t-shirt, which are super cool, but no “free” swag.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

3 out of 5. Maybe I hyped the course up too much in my head, but it wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. A lot of it was awesome, but a lot of it wasn’t. I think post-race fare wasn’t on par with a lot of other smaller races, and considering how hard racers just got worked, I’d like to see some better care afterwards with ice and cold drinks, and maybe even food trucks. It didn’t seem like they were ready for the ~400 athletes plus fam/friends. I think for a race that size the post race could be a lot better. If you’re looking for a hard, mentally challenging race in a remote area, then this is a good race for you. Definitely not for people new to ultra’s or not experienced with long days in the mountains. There were a lot of repeat racers there that go back for a reason, but probably not a race I’ll do again. That being said, I am very happy to finish this one and proud that I was able to pull myself back out of a tough spot.

Frank Fisher is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Frank, check out his coaching page.